The Five Minute Entrepreneurs

22 Sep

A Painless Way to Find Thousands of Days of Innovation Inside Your Company

An acquaintance of mine was just made “Resident Entrepreneur” for a global media company.

Cool job, and he’s a cool guy.

But the more I thought about it, the more questions it raised.

I get the sentiment behind the role – dreaming up and laying down funky future revenue streams.  But it just underlined to me how most companies pigeon-hole entrepreneurial thinking and innovation into a very tiny box.

Here’s a thought: Companies exist to create value, right?  If employees are well aligned with strategy and highly engaged with it (OK, a big ‘if’, but stay with me), then their remit should be to create value, too.  “They do!” shouts the global population of defensive line managers.  That’s right, they do…in part:  In reality, most job descriptions focus people on creating value for today – or maintaining the status quo.

But how much of a typical employee’s time is dedicated to thinking about the value that their role, their team or their company needs to be creating in the future?  Less than 1% of a working week, was the estimate for leaders according to a recent survey.

If companies are serious about innovation (most CEO surveys usually claim it’s a top three boardroom priority), competitive advantage and long-term shareholder return, then breaking out of the quarter-to-quarter mindset in favour of a greater focus on tomorrow’s sources of value seems to make sense.  That sentence was a long sentence.  I hope none of my school teachers are reading this.

The Five Minute Entrepreneurs

What if all job descriptions were designed around a better balance of creating value for today and value for tomorrow?  What if every employee had the responsibility of looking their role or team function through the eyes of an entrepreneur, even if was only for five minutes every day?  What would be the impact of everyone continually reviewing the nature of value creation across the organisation – from paperclip procurement through to breakthrough product development?

This of course needs a leadership team and a culture that values value creation in a different way.  The difficulty is that more entrepreneurial thinking brings with it the strong likelihood of increased risk-taking, creativity, failure and change…all the things that most line managers are not well equipped or motivated to encourage.

Helping managers make that jump is do-able (I get to see it first-hand quite a lot inside various global juggernauts). The real challenge is getting the leadership team to recognise the commercial value of new way of workings – and that means sending a lot of sacred cows to the corporate abattoir.

So how about it?  What if your company ran a 30-day pilot and gave every employee the challenge of spending five minutes a day thinking like an entrepreneur (give them some starters for 10 to prime the pump)?  That’s your entire workforce spending less than 1% of a typical working day thinking about better ways of creating value for today and tomorrow.  If you’re in a company of 1000 people, that translates into 416 hours of raw innovation every week.

Or another way of looking at it, 10 full-time Resident Entrepreneurs.


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